Tagged: Books

A re:View special for World Book Day

Happy World Book Day from Zanne and the Scooby!


I was going to tweet a photo of my favourite books, but then realised that most of them aren’t in my bookshelf because they’re circulating among my friends. So I’ll have to write this up instead…

These are just a few picks from the huge pile of wonderful books that have enriched my life over the years, because it’s good to look back and remember what a particular book has given you – especially if you have a habit of speeding through books the way I do. I’m sure there are plenty more that I can’t think of right now, but those can be for next year.

In no particular order – except for number one, which is very special.

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re:View – The 2015 Bookshelf
March: Worlds of (Mostly) Meh

Well, March wasn’t my best month for reading. I only (just) made it through four books, and one of them was a graphic novel so comparatively quick to read. That’s what happens when I pick up a book that doesn’t draw me in – I go into procrastinate mode and do everything else instead. (Although I did make a bunch of pretty DIY t-shirts in all that time I didn’t spend reading books.)

Anyway, with some delay here’s the Bookshelf for a rather meh-y March.


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Farewell, Sir Terry, and thank you for giving us a whole world of magic

The world has lost a very particular something today. If you look closely, you can see that a fine coating of sparkles is no longer there. It was swept away by the departure of a man who has added a little bit of magic to a lot of people’s lives.

Image from www.dignityindying.org.uk

Sir Terry Pratchett has left us. The news spread today like a shockwave, certainly in my social circle, which is filled with people who love him and have grown up with his books. The first reaction, from most people I spoke to, was simply: No.

NO. It cannot be. After spending years, if not decades, in the company of his books, travelling his worlds and meeting his characters, nobody seems to be able to imagine a world without him yet.

Texts, emails, Facebook messages started flooding in and out. Have you heard. Very sad news. Noooooo! I can’t even… And each message, each person adding their voice to this gathering wave of mourning, brought more tears.

Meanwhile the people who aren’t familiar with the Pratchett phenomenon looked at me somewhat blankly, feeling visibly awkward about the fact that I was crying in the office about the death of an author as if I’d lost a friend or family member.

Because it is more than the death of a hugely loved author. It is the loss of a man who has given me worlds, universes, a whole different layer of reality where I have spent hours, weeks, probably moths of my life and where I’ve met creatures and characters who have become so real that I have long ago accepted, as a personal truth, that they really do exist. They are real because Terry Pratchett, with his incredible imagination and his unmatched gift of language, has not just created them but brought them to life.

Discworld, for me, is a place. It’s somewhere I can go anytime and hang out with old friends – Granny Weatherwax and the witches, Rincewind and the wizards, Sam Vimes and the City Watch, the dwarfs, the trolls, the lot of them – and after 40 books spent in their company, they really are old friends to me. Going into Discworld is as real as going on a holiday – flying out to Sardinia or to Spain, where we tend to go in the summer. True, it doesn’t involve quite so much packing and travelling (and it’s certainly improved by the absence of the Ryanair Factor), but it really is the same thing. Discworld is a real place for me; it exists without a doubt.

And that’s why Terry Pratchett means more to me than a favourite author. Great authors give us wonderful books that we read, and return to, and that we take things from and treasure forever. But never in my life have I come across any other author who has given me a whole world. So far, with him still being active and writing several books a year despite the grip of Alzheimer’s tightening on him, this world has been endless. No matter how many books I read, I thought, there will always be more. After all, I still have quite a few of his non-Discworld works to get through.

But now his death has put a border around this endless world – or maybe a rim that you might fall off if you venture to the very edge. And that breaks my heart, because now there will be an end to reading his books. Even if I take it slowly, each remaining unread book now a treasure, I will arrive at the last book written by Terry Pratchett. The sand is slipping fast through that particular hourglass on Death’s shelves.

I will miss his wisdom, his wit, his imagination and most of all his incredible understanding of what makes us human. His books are largely categorised as fantasy, but I’ve always found that they are first and foremost about humanity. Terry Pratchett wrote about human nature with the insight of a philosopher, the warmth of a father and the wit of an Englishman. I have always considered him one of the great philosophers of our time, a hero whose superpower was to see right into the soul of human beings.

I’m unbelievably sad for this amazing human being we have lost today, and so, so grateful for all the magic Terry Pratchett has given to so many people around the world. And I’m grateful that he was allowed to go to sleep surrounded by his family, with his cat snoozing on the bed (probably positioned to cause the greatest possible discomfort to everyone, as good cats do), escaping from Alzheimer’s before it had a chance to destroy his wonderful mind.

Farewell, Sir Terry. Thank you forever for giving me a world. I hope your onward journey is safe and joyful, and involves at least one pint with Death in the pub at the end of the black desert under the endless night.

Check Mort by Paul Kidby

re:View – The 2015 Bookshelf
February: the apocalypse and beyond

Perhaps unsurprisingly, January’s reading journey to dystopia has led me on into the apocalypse. I guess the two often go hand in hand – certainly in the case of Maragret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, which forms the central part of my February reading.


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re:View – The 2015 Bookshelf
January: a journey to other worlds

New year, new bookshelf! After finally picking up The Handmaid’s Tale I fancied some more alternative reality kind of stuff, so my reading journey throughout January took me from dystopian to prehistoric to post-apocalyptic worlds…and back again. Also as a new feature this year I’m trying to do Bookshelf on a monthly basis. I’ve still got quite a bit of otherworldly reading lined up so expect a similar theme for February.

As well as the books below I also read Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven, which has certainly been my book of the month and is, quite possibly, already my favourite book of the year. It’s so good it has earned its own dedicated review post. Check it out here – I really can’t recommend this book enough.


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re:View – Station Eleven, the first must-read book of the year

I usually do my reviews in batches, but here’s a book that deserves its very own post. I read it purely because it was Waterstones’ book of the month for January and by the time I had read the free first chapter on their website I was drawn in enough to order the book straight away. That says a lot for the first chapter; usually I stay well clear of the latest books being hyped by the booksellers.

Couldn’t pick my favourite cover so you get them all…

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is the story of a theatre company travelling across a post-apocalyptic North America performing Shakespeare’s plays for communities of survivors, interwoven with an account of a pandemic that wiped out civilisation and the first twenty years of the surviving one percent of humanity dealing with the aftermath. What starts out as a collection of seemingly unconnected subplots following different characters’ lives, spanning the continent and some forty years in time, eventually comes together as a powerful narrative of surviving the end of the world and being catapulted into a new reality where all the rules have changed.

Mandel’s writing is poignant and perfectly timed, creating a page-turner that moves deeply without being sentimental. She imagines a post-apocalyptic wasteland that is filled with dangers but strangely inviting, and populated with characters and relationships that are fragile, flawed and utterly human. What I loved most about this book is how it explores the practical day-to-day realities of surviving in a worldwide ground zero, where resources are as sparse as law and order, where despair breeds fanaticism and where a moment of mercy could cost your life.

It makes you stop and think about just how fragile our civilisation really is; it makes you wonder whether you’ve got what it takes to survive, all the while also reminding us just how difficult it would be to re-build a world that’s even remotely as safe and comfortable as the one we’re used to.

Devastating and yet beautifully optimistic, and filled with literary beauty, this is without a doubt my favourite book of the year – and I’m confident enough to say that already in January.

Pens: 5 out of 5

re:View – The 2014 Bookshelf VI

Just to tie up the loose ends, here’s the last of the 2014 Bookshelf – books new and old by some of my favourite authors. While some of these guys never fail to impress (Ellroy, Pratchett, I’m looking at you!) others didn’t exactly blow me away this year.

I’m currently reading Ruth Ozeki’s All Over Creation but this will be one for next year’s shelf. Which means my Goodreads challenge closes at 106% or 55 of 52 books.


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re:View – The 2014 Bookshelf V

This summer I went on a bit of an Edith Wharton binge after being stuck on a journey without a book and finding a collection of her complete works on Kindle. I think by now I’ve made my way through all the novels and most of the novellas, but I’ve still got thousands of pages of stories, poetry and non-fiction ahead of me. This is my favourite author after all. Which means I will read EVERYTHING by her. Eventually.

So here’s the 2014 addition to the Wharton bookshelf. Now somebody just needs to go and publish shiny editions of all her books. Folio Society, I’m looking at you.


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re:View – The 2014 Bookshelf IV: The last leg of the Discworld-a-thon

Level up: After four years I’ve finally finished my Discworld marathon. There has been a lot of Discworld reading going on this year, so I’ve decided to bunch them all into one big, final super-Discworld review before I move on to new adventures – that is, the zillion other books that have been piling up on my shelf for the past six months.

Get ready for time-travelling monks, vampires, werewolves, talking rats and cunning cats, dragon-powered spaceships, coppers, crooks, AUSTRALIANS (except they’re not really Australians because Terry Pratchett is good at this diplomacy thing), public services and new technology.


Oh, a note: These are in chronological order but with some novels missing as I started reading some of them out of order before I went back to the beginning and did the rest properly…

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re:View – The 2014 Bookshelf III

My dear bookworms, I just realised what an absolute ton of books I still need to review from this year – and there’s not that much year left.

This shelf brings you tattoos, a bit of terror and a whole lot of urban and other fantasy. Yes, I have finally gotten into the urban fantasy thing, courtesy of Ben Aaronovitch’s brilliant London-based wizard detective series. (Move aside, Harry Dresden – these guys have the accent.)


As before, I’m ditching the Amazon links. Explore your local bookshop.

PS: I need more Goodreads friends. Hint, hint.

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